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Cartier President Cyrille Vigneron on Highlighting Women’s Accomplishments with a Dedicated Pavilion in Collaboration with Expo 2020

Cartier’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Cyrille Vigneron, discusses the brand’s latest revolutionary mega project, The Women’s Pavilion at Expo 2020

The Women’s Pavilion. Photo: Courtesy of Cartier

The Women’s Pavilion in collaboration with Cartier at Expo 2020 Dubai is an ambitious project showcasing the many contributions women have made to society. It is the first standalone pavilion at a global expo to focus solely on women empowerment and gender equality, recognizing the important roles women play around the world – and the work that still needs to be done to ensure equal participation in all fields. Opened by Cyrille Vigneron, president and chief executive officer of Cartier International, the Women’s Pavilion and its New Perspectives exhibition is a galvanizing force for change, celebrating and highlighting the many achievements of women – both known and unknown – throughout history, while also unflinchingly acknowledging the many challenges they still face, and the innovative solutions and initiatives helping women thrive today. It is something Vigneron is incredibly passionate about, as he shares in this exclusive conversation.

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Cyrille Vigneron, Cartier’s President and Chief Executive Officer, with HE Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General of Expo 2020 Dubai Bureau. Photo: Courtesy of Cartier

Manuel Arnaut: What was the start of the collaboration between Expo 2020 Dubai and Cartier?

Cyrille Vigneron: Expo 2020 Dubai already had the intention to create the Women’s Pavilion, so our contribution was as the curator of this space. This is one of the few pavilions that doesn’t represent a state, but instead represents half of humanity. It was an idea of HE Reem Al Hashimy, who decided to create this pavilion because women around the world remain underrepresented. We had the pleasure of working together from the early stages, and it is the first time a Minister of State in charge of an expo is collaborating so closely with a private company. Usually, the most obvious way to collaborate would have been a traditional sponsorship with financial support in exchange of visibility. We did much more than that, working closely with Expo 2020 Dubai for a common good.

MA: In what way is the Women’s Pavilion aligned with the global messaging of Cartier?

CV: Serving the cause of women is very much aligned with the maison itself. Our clients are still predominantly female, so we are naturally interested in women’s causes and women in general. On a corporate level and as an employer, we’ve also been advocates of women leadership, establishing gender parity into senior management in all regions. We have also been developing projects such as The Cartier Women’s Initiative, an annual international entrepreneurship program.

Photo: Courtesy of Cartier

MA: What are some other projects that are you supporting?

CV: We have joined other entities that share the same values as us, such as the Unstereotype Alliance and the Generation Equality Forum, both convened by UN Women.

MA: What can you reveal about the curation of the Women’s Pavilion?

Our main challenge was to create an interesting journey inside the space, while giving the artists room for their creativity, and making justice an important theme. We wanted the flow to be informative, insightful, and touching, with very real portraits of women, while also offering artistic installations and audiovisual moments. During the next six months, there are talks every day and conferences happening in the Majlis of the Pavilion. We offer more than 200 sessions curated by Expo 2020 Dubai, Cartier, or a country wanting to use the space to share their point of view. This will all be recorded, so we will have fantastic material to continue the conversation even after the expo closes its doors.

MA: There are no Cartier products on display inside the pavilion. Why is this?

CV: We are part of this project as a company and a corporate citizen. In other cases, companies use this type of partnerships to expand their brand awareness and visibility of their products. Our maison can do the opposite, as we have an extremely strong brand and recognizable DNA. This allows us to use our know-how to serve the cause, meaning that there’s nothing to gain in terms of products or sales. Many celebrities do the same, using their name to give back and support a cause. There is no need to put any product in the pavilion because there is nothing to sell, and we are not here to drive business. We are a prosperous company so it’s our duty to support causes.

Vigneron with Nadine Labaki. Photo: Courtesy of Cartier


MA: How did Cartier select the talents that are a part of the setup of the Women’s Pavilion? There are works by eL Seed, Mélanie Laurent, Nadine Labaki…

CV: Mélanie Laurent has been a friend of the maison for about three years now. She is known for her commitment to the environment, and she is involved in women’s causes as well. Nadine Labaki has an interesting point of view on women and children in the Arab world. Her name made complete sense and we were all very enthusiastic about working together. She is also very charismatic. She is both simple and gorgeous, and she shines inside and outside the red carpet, as a filmmaker and as a mother. I love her strong personality and strong heart. In terms of the facade of the pavilion, we collaborated with Laura Gonzalez, who worked on many of our boutique developments and has a great sense for texture, materials, geometries… She also engaged eL Seed, who made fantastic calligraphy. I believe that when women thrive, humanity thrives, so we wanted to also bring a man to the pavilion. I love a sentence of Labaki that sums up all that we’ve tried to achieve, “When you use artists to touch causes, they make it human, due to their own emotions.” If you only look at statistics and reports, you might understand with your brain, but not with your heart.

Photo: Courtesy of Cartier

MA: What are you looking forward to the most at the Women’s Pavilion?

CV: I’m excited to host the recently retired UN under-secretary-general and executive director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. We will talk about the purpose of the Women’s Pavilion, and how it can encourage us to forge new cooperation coalitions. There will also be an interesting conference with the Leaders for Peace, an NGO founded by former French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin. Ban Ki-moon, the former UN secretary-general, is the executive co-director. For international women’s day in March, we will have a big celebration with everyone from the Cartier Women’s Initiative.

MA: Who are the female role models you personally admire?

President of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, as well as Mlambo-Ngcuka, who is amazing. For more than 20 years, she was at the helm of UN Women, convincing governments to increase funding. She was crucial to understanding how women empowerment is essential for sustainable development goals. She is an inspiring role model for the future.

Rawdah Mohamed wearing Cartier high jewelry. Photographed by Nima Benati for Vogue Arabia

MA: In our September issue, we published a photo shoot produced in partnership with Cartier featuring a veiled Muslim model. I believe this was a first for the maison? What was the impact for the brand to reaffirm its diversity?

CV: The result of that photo shoot and engagement was good. And it is something to continue, although this globalized approach has been part of the DNA of our brand for a long time. For our most recent exhibition in Paris – Cartier and Islamic Art: In Search of Modernity – the theme is the influence of Islamic art on the creation of our art deco style. Cartier has always been into this universalist tradition, where you can travel the world and take what you are good at, but you can also get inspired by what you find, and then accept to be influenced by it. When Jacques Cartier went to the Middle East to buy pearls and sell watches, he was also making sketches, being inspired by the arts and architecture he found. This interest in different cultures makes us a truly universal brand. We also want to be humanized, celebrating a personalization, and understanding how different people make Cartier part of their lives.

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